Adobe Systems' Photoshop Lightroom is catching on as a preferred tool professional photographers use to edit raw images taken with higher-end cameras, gaining at the expense of Apple's Aperture and Adobe's plug-in used in ordinary Photoshop.
John Nack, Adobe's principal product manager for Photoshop, gleefully publicized the research data from analyst firm InfoTrends on his blog Monday, pointing out the wider usage compared to Aperture and saying the displacement of the Camera Raw plug-in for Photoshop is expected. For other tasks besides raw image editing, Photoshop is used by about 90 percent, Nack said.
In 2009, the Camera Raw plug-in won over 58 percent of the 1,045 North American photo pros surveyed, down from 62.2 percent in 2008. Lightroom rose from 36 percent to 37 percent, and Aperture dropped from 8 percent to 6 percent, according to the statistics.
On just Mac OS X, the only operating system for which Aperture is available, Lightroom increased from 40 percent to 44 percent from 2008 to 2009, and Aperture dropped from 15 percent to 13 percent. Lightroom runs on Windows.
What I find interesting about these statistics is not so much that Apple apparently isn't as popular; given Adobe's long history and brand clout with Photoshop, it's got the usual advantages held by incumbent powers. Instead, I'm intrigued by the idea of Lightroom becoming part of established photo-handling processes.
Right now Lightroom is something of an odd duck in Adobe's product lineup, though, and it's more suited for the single user than for larger companies. For example, with the present Lightroom 2.5, you can forget the idea of a studio using a shared catalog to collaboratively work on a photo shoot over a network.
Perhaps at some point Adobe will choose to add such features--and perhaps bundle it within its Creative Suite packages, too.
Raw images, which all SLRs and some high-end compact cameras can produce, offer higher image quality and more editing flexibility than formats such as JPEG. But for photos to be shared with others or used in many other ways, they must be converted from each camera's proprietary raw format into JPEG or another industry-standard format.
That manual conversion can be laborious and computing-intensive, but newer software tools make it less onerous--or even enjoyable for the types of photographers who once enjoyed fooling with prints in the darkroom.